Mission: Cure Autism Now (CAN) is an organization of parents, clinicians, and scientists dedicated to finding effective biological treatments, prevention, and a cure for autism and related disorders. In addition to its focus on biomedical research, CAN is committed to broadening awareness and understanding of the disease.
Background: One out of every 250 children is born with autism, making it the third most common developmental disability, after mental retardation and cerebral palsy, and more common than multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, and childhood cancer. Even though autism affects between five hundred thousand and 1.5 million Americans, it receives less than 15 percent of the federal funding directed to these other childhood diseases. CAN was established in 1995 to raise money for early detection, prevention, treatment, and eventually a cure for autism.
Current Programs: The largest private funder of biological research into autism, CAN has provided more than $10 million in grants since its inception. Its grants not only help researchers generate and investigate promising hypotheses about the biology of autism, they also create preliminary data for larger-scale studies. The organization provides awards for the recruitment of top scientists and to encourage new scientists to enter the field, and its bridge grants offer crucial support to scientists in the final stages of research projects. CAN also has assembled a large gene bank with DNA samples and cell lines from autistic people to help advance research.
Collaboration is another piece of the organization's strategy. CAN identifies important areas of autism work that are in the anecdotal stage and brings together research experts, autism professionals, parents, and clinicians to brainstorm how to move these ideas into the research stage, and organizes think tanks to discuss recent advances, share ideas, and map future research efforts.
In the area of education and outreach, CAN sponsors biomedical research conferences across the country to inform families and professionals of the latest research, diagnostic, and treatment information. It also works with the media, Congress, and the National Institutes of Health to increase awareness and funding of autism research.
Recent Successes: In addition to tripling the number of scientists working on autism research, CAN has trained a team of diagnosticians who travel around the country to diagnose autism in children. Most recently, the organization announced its Team CAN initiative with HomeMed Pharmacy to raise funds for autism research by sponsoring a car in the Indianapolis 500 on May 25.
Website: The CAN Web site features information about the organization, its goals and current programs, as well as information on autism, including a brief history and recent research projects. Researchers to the site will find information about grant opportunities and application guidelines.
Funding: CAN receives support from individuals and fundraising events such as walkathons and golf tournaments. Individuals or groups interested in raising money for the organization can visit the CAN website to access guidelines and instructions for events and promotions to benefit he organization.